We Missed the Forecast - Xcel Energy

From today's Rocky Mountain News
http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/ener...4707620,00.html

Xcel takes outage blame

Xcel Energy's CEO on Wednesday said the utility accepts the blame for the rolling blackouts in Februray that cut power to roughly 300,000 customers on one of the winter's coldest days.

Richard Kelly said the utility didn't realize how cold it would get on Feb. 18...

"We missed the forecast," Kelly said while speaking at Xcel's annual shareholder meeting..."We didn't forecast it being that cold."

Kelly said Xcel didn't call the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder to get a forecast that day. Instead, Xcel depended on other sources and internal forecasts that proved inaccurate.

Xcel spokeswoman Ethnie Groves later clarified that Xcel doesn't use NCAR forecasts. Also, the NCAR forecast for Feb. 18 came a day earlier, and it would have been too late to make supply arrangements at that point.

Mike
 
Xcel spokeswoman Ethnie Groves later clarified that Xcel doesn't use NCAR forecasts. Also, the NCAR forecast for Feb. 18 came a day earlier, and it would have been too late to make supply arrangements at that point.
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What does "it came a day earlier" mean? Clearly the author of this article had no idea what's going on... And I would hope that a large utility corporation wouldn't rely on the zones for their supply decisions!
 
Update from Saturday's paper - Xcel is in talks with NCAR about forecast tools.

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/ener...4713863,00.html

Xcel Energy is in talks with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder to collaborate on the most up-to-date weather forecasts.

Xcel later learned [after the blackout] that NCAR had a computer-generated model that came close to accurately predicting the extreme conditions that day, although most national and local weather services got it wrong.

"We are of course very impressed with what NCAR is able to do," said Xcel spokesman Mark Stutz. "It is the premier atmospheric research group in the world, and we think there is much for all utility companies to learn from NCAR."

Xcel met with NCAR a few weeks ago to discuss how the utility could benefit from the lab's scientific capabilities. Another meeting is scheduled in Denver next week, said Thomas Warner, an NCAR scientist.

Federally funded NCAR does not provide weather forecasts to users on a regular basis. But it sells weather forecasting models to buyers - for a negotiated price, said Warner. The buyers can use the technology to make their own forecasts.

Warner said that at the meeting a few weeks ago Xcel executives wanted to understand how to forecast unusual weather patterns, especially the kind seen Feb. 18, and how to accurately forecast wind flows to better harness wind energy.
 
Also, the NCAR forecast for Feb. 18 came a day earlier, and it would have been too late to make supply arrangements at that point.
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The real story here that the paper has not picked up is that Xcel made calculated business decisions that were profit motivated rather than customer related. The shortage of natural gas meant that to keep the lights on they would have had to purchase electricity on the spot market like California had to and it is much more expensive. Their tariff allows them to pass through fuel related costs profitably. Passing through the price of purchased power is much less profitable. If you go back and read the earlier investigations, they also blacked out consumers when they had preemptable commercial contracts to out-of-state interests. These types of contract offer large users a lower rate because they are designed to be turned off if the utility needs to protect their real customers. These large commercial contracts are also very profitable.
 
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